CSA: How to Support Local Farmers as Restaurants and Farmers Markets Close

Yves here. In theory, I like the idea of CSA (community-supported agriculture). But I’m not enough of a cook for it to work well. You get what fruit and veg the farms are producing. Looking at list of things they send, they include things I don’t eat or don’t want to figure out how to cook. I really do not like throwing food away (we waste vastly less than most households) and with coronavirus on, it’s not as if we can find takers for our unwanted items (even in normal times, it would be weird). So the not being able to choose the comparatively few things I like and can prepare super-quickly is a real barrier for me.

But then again, I’m not the farmers’ market sort either (among other things, you have to be up early to get the good stuff), so perhaps I was never part of the target market.

By April M. Short, an editor, journalist and documentary editor and producer. She is a writing fellow at Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute. Previously, she served as a managing editor at AlterNet as well as an award-winning senior staff writer for Santa Cruz, California’s weekly newspaper. Her work has been published with the San Francisco Chronicle, In These Times, Salon and many others. produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute

The global outbreak of COVID-19, and the collective effort to slow down the spread of the virus, has many people reassessing how they should get their food. The crowds passing through grocery stores lead to the stores becoming potential germ-spreading zones, and ordering food is less cost-efficient and comes with the environmental impacts of delivery drivers and packaging.

Meanwhile, as farmers markets and many restaurants have closed their doors, many farms across the U.S. are struggling to stay afloat. In order to fill in the gaps in sales in light of the coronavirus, farms across the country are getting innovative with efforts like drive-through farmers markets and farm-to-car pickup programs. And, many community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs—in which customers pre-purchase shares in local farmers’ crops—are piquing interest.

The CSA model directly connects food producers (farms) with consumers. Typical shares often include a variety of fruits and veggies, and sometimes meats, eggs, and dairy products. CSA members can pick up their shares at a farm or other given locations throughout a season as local farmers harvest and prepare their offerings. CSAs cut out the middle man, in a sense, and connect the public directly with the farmers growing their food.

CSAs in the U.S. took off in part due to the boom of industrialized agriculture following the Great Depression, explains Holly Hutchason, executive director of the Portland Area CSA Coalition in Oregon. While the agriculture boom was effective in feeding the masses, concerns began to grow over some of the harmful techniques employed in the name of quick production in these large, industrial farms—like the use of toxic chemical sprays, seeds bred to resist herbicides and pesticides and monocropping techniques draining the soil of nutrients. As spotlighted by the March Against Monsanto movement, which began in May 2013, many of the same problems of sustainability and health remain rampant in the mainstream agriculture world today. And, the treatment and working conditions of farm laborers, many of whom are immigrants, on large-scale farms are often deplorable, as highlighted by the current international crisis of COVID-19, as farmworkers, essential workers, lack basic protections.

Around the time that many were beginning to question these mass industrialized farming practices in the 1950s, Booker T. Whatley, a black agriculture professor at Tuskegee University in Alabama and early pioneer of sustainable agriculture and regenerative farming, became concerned with an emerging trend of industrialized agriculture forcing black farm owners and laborers off of their land. Several CSA-style cooperative farming programs emerged throughout the ’40s and ’50s, and a simultaneous CSA-like program, Teikei, was born in Japan around the same time. However, Whatley is largely credited with founding the modern CSA model in the U.S., offering this entrepreneurial option to small farm operators who would otherwise be trampled by the emergence of Big Ag.

Hutchason says since the pandemic began, there has been a significant boost in sales of CSA shares throughout the Portland area among the 60 farms that make up the Portland Area CSA Coalition, adding that another local farm joined the very week of our interview. She says colleagues from around the country are reporting similar trends. While she has not done any exit interviews, she says she assumes the spike has to do with the novel coronavirus.

“People are thinking about shorter supply chains, and who is handling their food, what safety precautions are they taking, right?” she says. “I think a big part of it, too, is that in a time of crisis like this… when you know the people that are growing your food, it gives you a lot more confidence. In a grocery store, there’s a lot of anonymity over where the food came from and how it got to you. But with CSA, that’s gone. You know, there’s just no question.”

She says the benefits of supporting local CSA programs are many.

Wen-Jay Ying, who founded Local Roots, a CSA program in New York City, says due to the pandemic, people have been standing outside in lines in the cold for hours at a time to buy groceries since the lockdown due to coronavirus began. She says CSA share purchases have increased noticeably, but her business is scrambling to reshape its model to one based in delivery. Before the pandemic, they’ve traditionally encouraged the community-building aspects of in-person pick-ups. They’ve hired additional staff to pack and deliver their goods and continue to work out the logistics and safety of the new model.

Ying says many of the farms that contribute goods to the Local Roots CSA have lost large portions of their usual revenue streams after restaurants closed down indefinitely.

“A lot of farmers are feeling intimidated because it’s like they’re grounded. It’s like they’re in day one of their business again, and there’s obviously financial loss,” Ying says. “Everyone who’s still operating is really just trying to reinvent themselves quickly, and being optimistic and resilient.”

Ying says Local Roots has begun donating some vegetables to restaurant owners who have been laid off, and customers with the means to do so have offered to donate their CSA shares to people in need, and others have offered to donate packing boxes to her business.

“In a crisis, it feels good to know that there… [is] this close-knit feeling of support we have for each other,” Ying says, adding that supporting local food grown on small farms in nutrient-rich soil is beneficial not just to local economies, but to personal health.

“If we’re talking about staying healthy, keeping our immune system up, we have to also be talking about how food is medicine, how you should be eating really fresh, nutrient-dense produce right now,” she says. “I love New York. I’ve lived here for 14 years, and [Local Roots] is my love letter to the city. I can see that the city that has so much, but the one thing centrally missing is really good food and access to, even, the awareness and knowledge that there is a different kind, the real kind of food that we need to be eating. The more we support local farmers, the healthier our bodies are and the healthier the land is and the healthier our communities.”

Looking to the future, the inevitability of climate change will necessitatemore sustainable food models. Rather than shipping mass-produced food thousands of miles, our food systems will likely benefit from more localized and community-supported food sources.

Thea Maria Carlson, executive director of the Biodynamic Association, says the CSA model is naturally self-sustaining and says the first CSAs in the U.S. were biodynamic farms. The term biodynamic refers to a model of farming that incorporates holistic, ecological and ethically-rooted practices, founded on the work of philosopher and scientist Dr. Rudolf Steiner.

“Biodynamics is really the idea of the farm as a living organism and having a co-creative relationship with the Earth and the land, and creating something that is self-sustaining and regenerative,” Carlson says. “The original impulse on the biodynamic farms that were doing CSA, was in the idea that you were making an investment so that the farm could exist, and then the farm was sharing its abundance with you.”

She notes that Temple Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire is an example of this kind of supportive, community-interested CSA model.

Carlson notes that many CSA programs seek to support community members who might struggle financially with concepts like “solidarity shares” in which people with more resources purchase shares not just for their own families but for other families’ shares.

Many CSA programs, as well as farmers markets, accept Food Stamp benefits. In Portland, for example, Hutchason says the CSA Coalition handles the SNAP benefits program (Oregon’s food stamp program) on behalf of all of its farms so that farmers don’t have to deal with the added paperwork and can more easily support low-income community members. They also participate in a state-funded program called Double Up Food Bucks, which allows farmers to offer their shares to SNAP participants at an even more discounted rate.

In light of the current pandemic and increased attention on how and where people get their food, many with the means to do so are planting their own food, and the internet is abuzz with a resurgence of victory gardens.

Carlson says more people planting food is one way to promote long-term local food community resilience.

“In the Biodynamics Membership Association, about 40 percent of our members identify as farmers, about 40 percent identify as gardeners, so we have a lot of people in the organization who are growing their own foods. … I think that’s a really important piece of building that resilience for people, growing their own food,” Carlson says. “Of course there is a place for national distribution of certain things, but we think there’s a lot that could really build resilience, ecologically and socially and economically, by focusing on the localization and relationship building,” Carlson says. “I think CSAs certainly are a piece of that. I think [there are] other interesting models people are developing for larger-scale regional food systems.”

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47 comments

  1. Susan the other

    It would be nice to see local co-ops growing corn and wheat – enough to take to a local mill and make flour and grits, etc. Just because there is nothing more delicious than bread made with freshly harvested wheat. I assume corn as well.

    Reply
  2. carl

    I’m honestly curious about the resources in communities other than mine (San Antonio). A few years back, I became interested in raw milk and stumbled upon a local food group which offered connections with local farmers. An off-shoot of this group established a part-time store front operation which is still going today. In addition, we have several farmers markets (which open at 9:00 am) within a mile or two of us in the central part of the city. Anyway, suffice to say that these connections with local food producers are a good deal more valuable these days. Also much less dangerous than the overcrowded supermarkets (caused in part because of large displays in the middle of aisles).

    Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      Here in Tucson, the Food Conspiracy Co-op sells raw milk from two Arizona-based farms. Best tasting milk I’ve ever had.

      And, for some odd reason, while the rest of the dairy case seems pretty empty, I can always find raw milk in stock.

      Reply
      1. lordkoos

        Some people are afraid of raw milk – before pasteurization people often did get sick from drinking it. It depends on the cleanliness of the farm practices.

        Reply
        1. carl

          The State of Texas has a raw milk certification program, involving inspections and other requirements. Technically, you can’t buy it from anyone but the farmer, but us city folk have found cooperative ways around that, since who wants to drive 30 miles to get a gallon of milk?

          Reply
          1. Amfortas the hippie

            yep.
            i was part of the lobbying effort(emailing and calling and otherwise yelling at my state rep.) to get that raw milk legislation.
            friend of mine out here is a raw milk nut…down to the breeding of the cows….over and above as far as the cleanliness goes.
            on farm sales only…which translates into buying milk in an alley like scoring some smack.

            Reply
  3. Redlife2017

    My sister runs a CSA in southern Illinois and they actually let you order what you want online: LEAF (Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers). They have meat, veg, bread, pasta, cheese, honey, etc. You basically could order quite a lot of your weekly shop from them. So at least some of them have started to be a bit more like a grocery store and less of a “you get what we give you”. And the number of people ordering has quadrupled in the past month. It’s crazy.

    Back in Old Blighty, I am a member of the equivalent of a CSA in London called Vegbox and no I don’t get to choose what I want. But on the other hand, I get amazing organic vegetables (they are seconds, so misshaped, dirty, etc. which is what keeps the price down) and we will get stuff we never would have thought of getting. Kale, cavolo nero, and chard being prime examples. I love that stuff now. And they give us simple recipes every week to help us out. Unfortunately, they are not taking on any new customers and only people that were members before can still receive the vegbags. They have mentioned that previously not everyone would take their bag every week so they would have extra they would give away to local charities. They now have almost nothing to give away since the lockdown started…

    Also I want to give a shoutout to the small green grocers here in London that I go to. They are alway well stocked in everything including the hard to gets at the big supermarkets like eggs, pasta and rice. Because they are small they can change where they get their supplies from easily and therefore have had no issue in getting what they need. I know the eggs are from a wholesaler because they are not boxed…you need to bring your own cartons!

    Reply
    1. rd

      The CSA we signed up with last year provides an exchange box at pick-up locations where you can put unwanted things and get somebody else’s unwanted thing instead. that works pretty well. There is usually only one item (if any) per pick-up that we aren’t interested in.

      Reply
  4. Stephen V.

    The joke for Anthroposophists (followers of Steiner) is: How many anthropops does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    We don’t know, because Steiner never gave any lectures on screwing in light bulbs–but he did on most other things, including economics in 1922.
    CSA’s basically shift the distribution costs onto to both the Farmer and the customer–somebody has to do all this running around. I, like most, love talking to *my* farmers. But I just don’t see how this scales up.
    To name one problem with Ag in this country among many –we will never find true prices by *eliminating* the distribution function. The middle-man, despite his history of power-mongering is in a very good position to know both what it takes the farmer to prosper
    and what the customer is willing to pay (which should become–what the customer can afford).
    At this point, people have some sense that seeking ever-lower prices = beggar thy neighbor. But beyond that it gets extremely complicated.
    To take one example: Why is industrial chicken so inexpensive? Veterinarians and *Food Scientists* are paid big bucks to tweak feed formula’s to full grow birds in six weeks. Costs (environmental) are externalized. This is before we get to animal welfare. Not to mention the indentured servitude of the growers–competing against one another for additional pennies per pound. They do not choose the birds or the feed and are saddled with egregious mortgages (which banks get their payments off the top–out of the growers’ checks). In my opinion, this should not be called *Farming* at all. At the other extreme: re-introducing labor instead of all this chicken high tech– pastured chicken growers struggle. There’s a lot of hard work!
    Young folks who didn’t grow up on a farm usually have no clue what hard work means and they are in an educational system which tell them they can all code for a living or (as one of my clients informs me) grow up to be *influencers.*
    More people will have to be involved in production, period. Young Farmers need access to land and we can’t count on inspired capable Farmers to be born in n the right families. Landowners may soon discover that the *value* of their vacant land has little economic meaning.(the difference between *use* value and *ownership*) [see Mark Blyth: https://www.reddit.com/r/PoliticalVideos/comments/fzjz88/the_normal_economy_is_never_coming_back_w_mark/%5D Farmers should pay little rent and forget mortgages, or more of us will starve.

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctrine_of_parity

      https://www.cornucopia.org/2013/01/a-brief-history-of-parity-pricing-and-the-present-day-ramifications-of-the-abandonment-of-a-par-economy/

      the middlemen have become mere beak wetters and speculators(ie: gamblers).
      and actual price discovery is long gone.
      and please note that government subsidies, by and large, go to the Big Boys, and to “commodity crops” like corn….NOT to Veggies or Fruits…those are “specialty crops”, according to Big Ag and their captive USDA, etc.
      an afterthought, at best

      Reply
      1. Stephen V.

        All good points AtH. Excellent outfit that Cornucopia.
        I was a manager of a small SoCal natural food store in 1991 ? when the National Org Standards were enacted. I celebrated at the time (recogntion ! of hippie values). But since Reg’s have just become a cover for big organic. Allowing hydroponic soliless to be org. cert. will be the final death knell. Cornucopia spends a lot of resources in litigation. Another externalized cost?

        Reply
        1. Amfortas the hippie

          aye. I was heavily involved in birthing Texas’ once-excellent Organic Certification Program, and almost wept when the feds took over.
          watered down with sewage sludge.
          and you can’t use the word “organic” unless you sign up for it.
          to paraphrase Yoda…”big bidness screws up everything”

          Reply
  5. Carla

    Unfortunately, in NE Ohio, my experience with CSAs somewhat mirrors that of Yves: kohlrabi and kale for months on end, some onions, the occasional tomato. I actually enjoy cooking, but really. And the share price is high, given what you get. I’m willing to pay a premium for things we actually want to eat. Here, anyway, CSAs are a great concept, but not yet great in practice.

    Reply
    1. rd

      In Central New York we have had good experience getting a wide variety of seasonal things with CSAs. There is just about always leafy greens, often two types, onions, peppers, turnips, carrots etc. depending on season.

      However, there is a fair amount of variability between CSAs, so you need to do homework.

      Reply
      1. Carla

        I did do my homework, for several years in a row. It included joining one CSA for a season, and in other years, sampling several others that allow drop-in purchases. CSA’s are really not very good in this area, at least for us — we are omnivores who enjoy a wide variety of fresh foods.

        Reply
      2. Yves Smith Post author

        The variety here looks good but includes stuff that I suspect a lot of people like but one or both of us here won’t eat: white potatoes (as opposed to yellow), okra, radishes, fennel (which I don’t dislike but have no idea how to cook except steaming) and eggplant (which I like but my mother loathes).

        Reply
    2. clarky90

      I’ve been living on NZ grass fed, beef burger, beef steak, eggs and aged cheese, salt, water and coffee for the last four weeks.

      I age supermarket Colby (dusted with pink salt) in pillow cases with a few parmesan rinds thrown in for inoculant.

      The meat is in a little chest freezer. This simplifies my life. I throw the frozen beef in the air fryer and set the timer for 25-30 minutes. I eat a couple of times a day, if I’m hungry.

      The inflammation is now gone in my right hip, knee and foot. (It came back after eating rice that I had cooked for my pet chickens a month ago). I am walking freely now!

      Reply
      1. clarky90

        Four Rescue Chickens. They had been abandoned at a local pull over (beginning of a bush walk). They are very friendly and don’t know (yet) how to be wild. I wait until dusk, when they get ready to sleep, catch them one by one, and perch them side by side, on branches in a sheltering tree.

        They are not laying eggs yet (ever?) but are the best pets ever. Big beautiful (golden/tan patterned), quirky birds. They are waiting for me, every morning at the back door for me to feed them. Don’t worry, I would never eat them!

        Reply
  6. Mattski

    In Tallahassee, we have a nationally award-winning CSA that takes the model the next logical–and politically important–step. Fifty-plus farms have united in the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, an alliance with enormous implicit political and organizing potential–that today has almost everything one could need to supply a home’s food needs. Meat, dairy, and an amazing array of food. It has exploded now during the crisis, but the crisis is going to stimulate local farming enormously. Lots of unanswered questions, some of them ominous. There still is no real business model for small farm or organic success; all of the farmers I spoke with around the country, including during a year-long USDA-sponsored study of “disadvantaged” famer attitudes toward organic certification, were highly marginal, depended on wealthy clients, and had one member of what were typically couple/partner arrangements working an outside job to keep the thing going.

    https://www.rhomarket.com/

    What I saw in working with the Via Campesina in the Caribbean (Ja, Grenada, the DR, Cuba) and looking around the world is that after an initial burst of enthusiasm that sets up a handful of gifted and enterprising farmers. . . nothing happens without an infusion of government money and expertise. Cuba did precisely that during the period after the Soviet Union collapsed, when people began to go hungry because of US sanctions. That’s the reason why that country has become a champion of Food Sovereignty and is looked to by people around the globe for inspiration.

    We are terrifyingly oblivious to most of these currents of what is by far and away the world’s biggest social movement here. (The Via Campesina has 250 MILLION members; food sovereignty and peasant farming models are the basis of much of the world’s most vibrant political organizing across the globe, and in my view the key to rescuing humanity and creating vibrant new local economies.) I don’t expect a site that is devoted to the core countries and finance to be terribly on top of this, but a look outside this country’s borders is a critical fist step.

    Check it out:

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      La temporada de vaca flaca
      (“skinny cow time”)
      Cuba really showed it’s mettle, there…causing, among other things, a global shortage of mules(!).
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Period

      https://www.iatp.org/sites/default/files/Cuba_A_Successful_Case_Study_of_Sustainable_Ag.htm

      https://www.resilience.org/stories/2006-02-25/power-community-how-cuba-survived-peak-oil/

      the apologists for Big Ag(John Stossel, I’m looking at you) can cry all they want, but there Are alternatives to the current hegemony.

      Reply
  7. Alternate Delegate

    The CSA dilemma makes it clear how finance and Big Ag have destroyed farming and made it basically impossible for anyone to make a living from a small farm. You need to live on off-farm income.

    In order to make a living from CSA, the farmer has to find hundreds of people, each willing to pay hundreds of dollars a season, for whatever grows that year. They have to basically pay more than it costs in a store, in exchange for the benefit of knowing where it comes from and who grew it. And the same people have to shoulder most of the burden of distribution, often on a voluntary basis.

    Some farmers make CSA work, sort of, but it’s more a religion than a living.

    And nevertheless, I don’t want to give up. I want to acknowledge the economic non-viability of growing food under the current system, while continuing to grow at least some of our own food, because food is the basis of any real living.

    We just grow plants, but it’s most of the green we eat, while we grow a smaller amount of calories. Friends who raise animals don’t sell them; they barter and share the food for help and collaboration. It would be economically pointless to sell it, since it costs more to raise than it would sell for, even at a premium.

    But it is NOT pointless to grow your own food, even if you can only grow a small proportion of your food overall. It’s important to know where it comes from and who grew it. You learn the right questions to ask about your purchased food, too. It’s about control of your food.

    Reply
  8. Laura in So Cal

    I did an Organic CSA (where you get what they give you) for a few years here in Southern California. At the time, I was only working part-time, and it worked well. I had a pick up time and place each week. It forced me to learn to eat and cook new vegetables. There were a few things that were a NO for me, but I usually could find someone who wanted it. For example, my brother-in-law each year would ask if we were getting apricots yet…we don’t like them, but he loved them so I would give him what we got. However, I went back to work full-time when my son started school, and I just couldn’t keep up with it anymore. The extra prep time, research time etc. just was too much when I was trying to get dinner on the table in under an hour so we could get to sports practices.

    Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      I was a member of a CSB here in Tucson. And then the owners changed jobs.

      We shop at the same brewing supplies place. Once things open up again, I plan to ask them about reviving the CSB.

      Reply
  9. Wyoming

    When I owned my farm we sold mostly via a variety of farmers markets and also through a small CSA.

    The CSA model has many forms as you can see from the various descriptions above. Some of those forms are only available in locations which are near enough to a true rural area which still has the full variety of agriculture products – veggies, grains, meat, eggs, dairy. There are not many areas like this anymore so those comprehensive CSA’s are fairly rare. All of the CSA’s in my area were limited to veggies and some fruit. Seasonality is a feature not a bug of this type of service – from an ideological perspective. Meaning that part of using a CSA is to eat similar to what our grandparents did – you eat what is in season and those products which have long shelf life – grains, butternut squash, potatoes, onions, dried apples, etc. Modern consumers have no memory of this and do not like it much. Thus the complaints about having to eat a lot of early produce in the spring – kale, cabbage, peas and so on. This was the kind of product I had early in the season. Later on I had 25 different vegetables and about 100 varieties of them – say in the case of tomatoes I had 25 varieties. So in the spring there was limitations in what I could offer and the rest of the year I had far more quantity and variety than a grocery store. I could easily sell you bulk for canning and had a number of customers who took advantage. So if you are a member of a CSA you have to look at the whole of the year and not the week you are in.

    CSA food is definitely more expensive than the grocery store as are most all farmers market prices. Plus I was growing organically which is even more expensive. Adding to your food security and getting safer produce has a cost.

    But farming this way is actually even more work intensive than growing via the industrial method and it pays worse in general. As an example I worked 7 days a week from Valentines Day to Thanksgiving. An average of 12 hours a day. Peak season from May to Sept more like 14 hours a day – 7 days a week. I paid my crappy American workers $7/hr and my Mexican workers $9/hr. I cleared $5/hr. This was a labor of love and also a way to decompress from my career of service for the USG – that it was decompressing tells you a lot of what that was like. I did it for 6 years and it never made any financial sense – but I loved it. But you should not expect anyone to do this for you.

    Reply
  10. David in Santa Cruz

    Ever tried cooking ramps? Our CSA box once turned-up full of them, and that was the end of that!

    Fortunately our local Farmers Markets are deemed “essential” and have been kept open for small farmers to distribute their produce during the pandemic. They’ve set-up a system like the velvet ropes at Studio 54, where customers pass before the stalls one at a time and point to which head of lettuce or bunch of onions looks best.

    As much as a “subscription service” makes life more predictable for the farmer, as consumers we much prefer having a choice rather than struggling to figure-out what to do with a box full of something like ramps, which are truly awful vegetables.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Ramps are wild leeks? I don’t know what anyone could do with a box of wild leeks except clean them, blanche them, and after they cool — bag them and freeze them. I once bought a box of ordinary leeks and spent a long time cleaning them, blanching them, and freezing them in freezer bags. They were a pain. But I was very sad when I used the last of them making Vichyssoise.

      Enough said … what was the provider of the CSA thinking when they let a box of ramps go out as part of the subscription!!!!!????? The people running these CSAs are oblivious to the needs of the subscribers and providers of the produce.

      There is a local farmers cooperative in driving distance of where I live. This is the place where a lot of the local ‘farmers’ market people pick up their produce. The prices and QUALITY of the vegetables were excellent … but you had to have a way to handle the quantity. And of course the vegetables come with the season. I lived in a condominium complex with more than enough people to help me consume the quantities of produce I could obtain at the coop. But even going door-to-door in my complex and trying to give the stuff away my neighbors acted as if I were working some scam on them. My costs after keeping what I wanted and giving the rest away were far less than the far less than the costs of getting lesser quality vegetables from the local supermarkets. There is a little too much fear and mistrust spread among the Populace. I gave up my efforts and bought less and less as the season ended, and as the workload from my job increased. I gave up on my ‘neighbors’ and reluctantly settled into my job.

      I attended one of the meetings of the coop where I purchased produce. I tried to understand their perspective and needs. I came away more dispirited than when I came … and it was the Christmas season. [The food at their potluck luncheon was fabulous! But this was my first time attending and I brought nothing and felt very uneasy in taking from the bounty without having made any contribution. I believe that feeling is not a rare feeling among fellow members of Humankind.] After talking to several farmer members of the coop I was extremely dispirited by their single minded hopes to suddenly, immediately, and out-of-the-blue become the highly regarded, well-paid providers of produce for some interest controlling a major market for produce. I should have picked up a few more pieces of the wonderful batter fried chicken someone brought in to the potluck. Instead I left more disheartened, more disappointed, and more dispirited than when I came. The farmers had no understanding and no desire to understand what I saw was their true market. And that ‘true market’ as I perceived it could never understand the perspective of the farmers who grew the food they ate.

      Another ‘success’ for Neoliberalism?

      Reply
      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Ignore the first two paragraphs and focus on the close of my comment. [Who really cares what ramps are or how or whether to use a box of them?]

        The farmers who provide to CSA programs as well as the workers stuffing the boxes with CSA produce have as little understanding of the people consuming their produce as the people consuming their produce have of the farmers. And worse — neither can listen to or empathize with the other.

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    2. fajensen

      Nope!

      I find that they (Allium ursinum) are too similar to another plant (Convallaria majalis) which is reasonably poisonous and grows in the very same environments. I do know ramps are ‘a thing’ with the posh restaurants but, …., no!

      Being somewhat paranoid with these things, I would have to smell every raw leaf before cooking and eating the stuff, which is more work than the experience is worth. In my opinion.


      Just like I would never eat dried, wild mushrooms (apart from chanterelle and ceps), that I didn’t prepare myself, even from a restaurant, maybe even especially from a restaurant. I do need all of my organs working!

      Reply
      1. xkeyscored

        From what I can make out, ramps (never heard of them before) are Allium tricoccum; ramsons or wild garlic Allium ursinum, which I always tucked into whenever I came across them. Sounds like they’re nearly the same thing, though.

        “Ramps or Allium tricoccum in latin is the North American wild onion species. Ramson or Allium ursinum is the European and Asian variety of wild onion. ”
        “To make it even more confusing people in both Europe and America keep calling ramps and ramson with other names like wild leek, wild garlic, bear leek, broad-leaved garlic, bear’s garlic, buckrams and wild onion.”
        https://www.ateriet.com/ramps-and-ramson/

        Reply
      2. Phillip Allen

        Ramps are endemic in my area of New England, and have become a favorite of foragers and often collected for sale to markets. It has become a problem in that people are simply ripping out entire colonies that take years to re-establish, if they ever do.

        In this part of the world, ramps and lily-of-the-valley are unlikely to be encountered in the same place. Convallaria is overwhelmingly a garden plant and would be found near or with ramps only when someone was gardening in a wooded area and the Convallaria spread from the garden into the woods. One might find them around abandoned home sites, where the forest has reclaimed the land. Ramps are shy, usually further from the forest edge than you’d ordinarily encounter LOTV, and emerge earlier. Ramps are also a true spring ephemeral, with the entire plant going dormant before summer sets in and the tree canopy closes. Lily-of-the-valley stays in leaf all year. Ramps and lily-of-the-valley are similar only to someone without experience with plants beyond the most casual – sadly a great many (the majority?).

        The most common incidences of Convallaria poisoning are in dogs and horses from eating foliage, and in human children who eat the attractive red berries that sometimes develop. (In decades of gardening in the northeast, I can’t remember ever seeing fruit on any of my lily-of-the-valley.)

        Reply
      3. Amfortas the hippie

        smell is the key in discriminating between wild allium and the various lillies that grow in the same places…here, it’s the “Death Cama”.
        in the river beds, here, there’s also wild hemlock…which can be indistinguishable from things like carrots.
        with any wild crafting, find yourself an expert…about ten years ago,lol.
        garden clubs, master naturalists, etc are good places to start.

        Reply
  11. K teh

    Let’s see if I can be politically correct.

    Community farms depend on physical cash in general circulation. Industrial farms depend upon electronic money. Using electronic money does not serve the interests of the majority. The biggest cost to farming now is depleted soil caused by government regulation and credit flows in favor of industrial farming. Tractors aren’t for sale anymore; they are leased, along with government mandated GMO seed, and technology that can shut them down remotely at any time.

    We are still operating on feudalism, with increasing misdirection driven by technology and statistics to ensure the outcome. Statistics is the worst basis for decisions in a natural system, faith is better, and science backed by faith, if all else fails, is the best.

    Statistics begins with biased assumptions and division by zero, which means that any conclusion may be drawn from the data, depending upon the interest of the users. The moderation function on these sites has the same problem. Statistics cuts off both ends and repeats the process until the narrative bias is tuned.

    Political marriage is always the root of incompetence and corruption. Tuning in the narrative is always the means. Finance what you need and what you want automatically follows.

    The money supply graph tells us exactly what happened. The Land Lords always bet against nature and they always lose, whether it’s antibody production or anything else. Most of that those checks for $1200 are going to the landlords and most of their money is going back to the banks. Disaster relief is a bank bailout, an order of magnitude greater than 2007-2009, and it was inevitable. The only question was the trigger. What’s going to happen on the next wave, or the virus after that or the virus after that, given microorganism quantum advance in an artificially stabilized macroeconomic , closed system?

    Statistics embedded in the technology created artificial, myopic tribes of individuals competing for arbitrary credit, to the end of banks, which can only result in an increase in the use of leverage. Borrowing short to lend long with massive leverage ends badly, and has for millennia. Debt jubilees are just recurring points in recurring debt supercycles.

    There is a balance of employing work and savings as the input to investment to the end of operational leverage, and replacing this mechanism with debt as the input to the end of financial leverage. If you want power back, employ physical cash in general circulation to alter the path of money, in favor of multiplier effects in the real economy.

    Finance is like building a fire, with kindling, logs and an accelerant. It is the order of hands that money passes through that is important. Those capable of imparting multiplier effects are not going to do so for the sake of the stock market, which is merely transfers wealth from those who create it to those who do not. Filter out the filter.

    Government is a corporation. The university hospital complex is obviously the drug dealer, keeping the population sedated and compliant until it is replaced by the next population. Blaming a symbol changes nothing, by design. If you are surprised by what happened with Bernie Sanders, look no further than Burlington.

    It’s always a real estate game.

    Money is like a gun, and the majority has voted with their behavior to give a bazooka to a statistical, sociopathic enterprise.

    Reply
  12. kaligula

    I dunno! In my mind, anyone saying “I don’t cook, and I don’t WANT TO COOK!” this person is really out of contact with reality.

    Sure, CSAs may send you some stuff you are unfamiliar with, but heck it is NOT POISON! So use your online assistant (Google, Duckduckgo, whatever) and get yourself familiar with a set of recipes for that unfamiliar item. Hey, you may even like it!

    Aghhhhhhh…. What a shitty way to go into the future.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t have time. Cooking of any complexity takes time. I don’t have time to go out for dinner or a drink, to see a movie or even read movie reviews, or read a book. I can barely find enough time to do bare minimum exercise.

      I can steam veggies and boil eggs. I can cook fish but you need good fish. I can grill chops. That’s it. Anything else has too much of a time cost. Oh and I can cook potatoes, oatmeal and whole grains.

      Reply
      1. Avi Meshar

        Busy lady! People to see (observing social distancing, presumably…), places to visit (hopefully not travelling by airplanes…)

        Reply
      2. mrsyk

        Like Ms Syk. She’s passionate about her work (she’s an epidemiologist!). She works hard and long hours. I’m retired so I do all the cooking and cocktail fixing.

        Reply
      3. xkeyscored

        Yes, Yves, and thank you for all the time you find to make Naked Capitalism what it is. I’m not surprised you have little time left for cooking.

        Neither do many health workers, Amazon ‘fulfillment’ workers, delivery drivers and the like, I’d imagine, especially at the moment. I read a headline or two recently about Wuhan health workers and insomnia, twelve hour days and so on.

        Nor do many less well off workers, trying to juggle public transport, food deserts, half hour lunchbreaks and two jobs, for whom McDonalds makes sense.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I do not think you understand my degree of time pressure. Most people still have some time for social interaction, at least with family members. And they are able to listen to music or watch TV upon occasion. By contrast, ten minutes is a lot of time for me. I can’t listen to music at all because I need to concentrate to read closely or write. I can barely find time to do my taxes and pay bills on time. I will not be seeking a bailout loan because I don’t have the time to apply.

          I turn down all requests for TV and virtually all requests to go to conferences because I don’t have time. I turn down all requests for business “social” meetings, to see fellow journalists and academics. I sincerely doubt anyone you know is in this boat save medical residents and now ER workers in coronavirus hotspots. And even for them they expect there to be a light at the end of the tunnel, while my overwork situation is chronic.

          Reply
  13. K teh

    Planting on good soil at greater than $1000/acre isn’t farming. Prices should be much lower than the store and quality much higher, with better choice.

    4370 Dundas St, Thorndale, ON N0M 2P0, Canada

    Reply
  14. boydownthelane

    Thanks for this marvelous reminder. Joined a CSA in the last stages of our stay in prior location and our first experience was interesting: we bought a quarter-share for two people, got too much of certain product and not enough of other, but on the whole the quality was good, the convenience factor was high, and the spoilage was minimal. Got our first introduction to kale and tried it every which way, but YUCK. Joining a CSA puts a premium on food prep and good cooking (which is a good thing)

    Now, in different but better location where we are surrounded by farm land and fresh water, I just looked up sites on state’s natural resources website and mailed this link and that one to my son’s family, my daughter’s family, and saved it for us. In our location, we abound with farmsteads and have two farm/ranch operations for beef, pork and lamb. It costs more than the supermarket, but it’s much better quality. Bon appetit! [The better CSA’s will have educational cooking lessons, ideas, etc.]

    Reply
  15. Amfortas the hippie

    FTA:”“People are thinking about shorter supply chains, and who is handling their food, what safety precautions are they taking, right?” she says. “I think a big part of it, too, is that in a time of crisis like this… when you know the people that are growing your food, it gives you a lot more confidence. In a grocery store, there’s a lot of anonymity over where the food came from and how it got to you. But with CSA, that’s gone. You know, there’s just no question.””

    Know Yer Farmer.
    in the last month:
    a nationwide shortage of baby chicks.
    a nationwide panic buying of goats.
    a nationwide shortage of garden seeds and seedlings.
    (our second seed order is delayed indefinitely– our baby chick order from before the pandemic, delayed indefinitely–no goats to be had around here, because everybody who had them are rushing them to new customers in suburbia to place out by the trampoline, so they can look at their backup meat supply)

    chick guy at the feedstore says people who bought chicks for the first time are keeping them in apartments, and calling the store where they bought them incessantly regarding death and care,lol…this is from stories he’s heard from his counterparts in the city.

    I’m in line for a few young goats as soon as they’re weaned.

    for all our food production activity around here, I’ll be doing good to feed the 7 of us, long term.
    that’s with a mess of chickens and geese and ducks, a few barbadoes and about an acre of gardens and a bunch of fruit trees.
    and that includes a bunch of squash and pumpkins and kushaws to get us through winter, even though I’m the only one who really likes them.
    Autarky is hard work…and requires a lot of deep knowledge about myriad interlocking systems and an attitude of working WITH Mother Nature that is just plain absent in our culture.
    it’s gonna be a steep learning curve if this continues.

    Reply
  16. mrsyk

    I knew a guy who made part of his income selling chicken diapers to the woke folks in Brooklyn. Seriously.

    Reply

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